This Week in History: December 4

This week, Vir­ginia receives a let­ter from her broth­er-in-law, Wal­ter Otey.  Wal­ter is mar­ried to Vir­gini­a’s sis­ter Eleanor (referred to as “Ellen” in this let­ter), and he not a very pop­u­lar mem­ber of the Camp­bell or Kyle fam­i­lies.  Vir­ginia and Eleanor’s moth­er, Lucy, has referred to him in a let­ter as a “Demon clothed in human flesh,” as much for his per­son­al­i­ty as his occu­pa­tion as a slave trad­er. Take a look at this let­ter — what do you think of Walter?


Raleigh N.C. Dec 7

Mrs. Robert Campbell

Saint Louis, Missouri

Raleigh N.C.

Sun­day Dec. 4 1841

My dear Mrs. Campbell

My dear Sis­ter Virginia,

Your let­ter dat­ed the 18th Novr is to hand and find us all in the enjoy­ment of good health after offer­ing you our con­grat­u­la­tions on your report­ed health and pros­per­i­ty and future prospects of con­so­la­tions — I will pass on and endeav­or to detail to you some of the pass­ing events of your native region — How­ev­er I must first inform you that I wrote to your good man Mr. C. some days ago and informed him the whys and where­for­es I had not writ­ten soon­er and thus he has read that let­ter; — In con­se­quence of a press of busi­ness — I have cur­tailed the list of my cor­re­spon­dents and only write occa­sion­al­ly to a few of my most par­tic­u­lar friends. There­fore when you receive an occa­sion­al scrawl from me it may be regard­ed as a com­pli­ment; — I am like your hus­band.  I have an expen­sive wife and must make some­thing to sup­port her on — and in a few more months shall have an expen­sive daugh­ter if she should pat­tern after her moth­er; But I hope she will be half Otey — half Kyle — and the “bal­ance Win­ston” — and I think she will pass inspec­tion among the most fastidious.

Raleigh Capi­tol, built in 1840. Pho­to cir­ca 1861.

I must give you a short sketch of her Biog­ra­phy — It is a fact she is a most remark­able Child — and this is quite observ­able to all who vis­it us or have seen her — she cries but sel­dom — nev­er I think — unless hun­gry or in pain — she is very hearty and healthy — she will be 4 mo. old the 15th of this month — and she now takes so much notice; plays and laughs so loud as to be heard all over our house.  She can stand alone by the back of a chair — she has fair skin — my deep blue eyes — very reg­u­lar and hand­some fea­tures; and in gen­er­al sym­me­try unsur­passed.  Thus you see it will be com­pli­ment­ing you very high­ly to say we think she will be more like you than her Moth­er — I wish very much you could see her — I am going to have her minia­ture tak­en by an artist now in our city — who is said to be admirable on such exe­cu­tions — Well I sup­pose you have heard enough of Fran­cis Eliz­a­beth or so Ellen calls her — and I must let you know some­thing of our move­ments and arrange­ments — I expect­ed to have been on my way West before this some weeks — but have been detained by busi­ness — I want to break up house­keep­ing — and leave Ellen in Va with my rel­a­tives — until I return in the Spring — then she could spend the sum­mer in Va and we would go west in the fall if I should be pleased and make a loca­tion — I should be in the West Jan­ry Feby and March — back Va in April spend the sum­mer part­ly — been set­tling up small mat­ters and we could take our time in trav­el­ing out in the fall — I should not be sat­is­fied to leave Ellen here dur­ing my absence.

There is not a pleas­ant Board­ing House in the place for Ladies as you are aware — and to remain and keep house alone, she could not.  This is a most dis­tress­ing sit­u­a­tion I am placed in at all times about leav­ing home — and this is one par­tic­u­lar rea­son I have in being so desirous to change my place of res­i­dence and if I am not pleased with the West I shall pur­chase a place in Va.  I wish you could pre­vail on Mr. C to quit the Town life and let us pur­chase two farms near each oth­er — so that you and Ellen could be togeth­er — We have a plen­ty for this life — and had we all we want­ed — we can’t car­ry away any with us — when we pay the last debt here; — There is noth­ing that would con­duce so much to my peace and hap­pi­ness I believe — and that of us all I think.

Ellen says she intends writ­ing to you soon — you know she does not write often to any­one — and I am unwill­ing to believe it occurs from the want of affec­tion — because when we have been sep­a­rat­ed for some weeks — she did not write to me — who has the greater claim on her affec­tions and atten­tions “entre vous”? — Indeed she talks so much about “Sis­ter” that I have almost to scold her some­times — and tell her Va does not think so much of her — But her reply is — Sis­ter loves me bet­ter than any one in the world — But you must act sat­is­fied that we both appre­ci­ate your pecu­liar kind­ness and alacrity as a cor­re­spon­dent — I should write to you often­er but for your well known punc­tilio in orthog­ra­phy ‑ety­mol­o­gy — syn­tax and prosody — But I have well neigh filled this sheet of Foolscap with­out writ­ing you any “fool­ery” — The rea­son it is called Foolscap I s’pose it suits best for fools to write on;

Well have you heard that Doc­tor McK­ee and Susan Bat­tle are about to make a match of it such is the report?

The Doc­tor is doing well and is des­tined to stand at the head of the pro­fes­sion here — I believe I wrote same in Mr. C. let­ter that Mr. Col­lier and Miss Ann Hugh­es were to be mar­ried on next Wednes­day night — His broth­er George was mar­ried last Wednes­day night to a Miss Oliv­er in New­bern — they are to be here — and the Hugh­es are mak­ing grand prepa­ra­tions for the wed­ding — I under­stand Miss Mary Smith has dis­card­ed Doct. Smith — Miss Emma has no cap­tive at this time — Miss Man­ly with­out a beau — Miss McWilliams is doing her pret­ti­est to cap­ti­vate all — she flies high and sights low.  I heard a Bil­liard Room talk about her the oth­er day (entre vous) not so respect­ful — among the Young Men: — Allen Jones has been hang­ing around Susan Polk all to no pur­pose.  The oth­er girls are on their own rest­ing.  Beaus are as scarce as mon­ey in this place.  Mrs. Hay­lan­der is stay­ing with us now and desires me to send her best love to you, and says she wish­es she could be with you in your trou­bles; that Mr. Camp­bell must bring you and leave you in Raleigh; and I think so too!

I am sor­ry Mr. C. will be from home at the time I shall be in St. Louis — I will write you or him on my route.  Ellen joins me in love to you and Mr. C. and believe me your tru­ly attached broth­er W. L. Otey

I would write more but you see my paper is exhausted.

Give our respects to Doct. McPheeters — I saw his Father in the streets 3 days ago — walk­ing about.


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